KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #332: More Than This by Roxy Music.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #332: More Than This by Roxy Music.

Roxy Music formed way back in 1970. The band was fronted by a former ceramics teacher from an all-girls school, Bryan Ferry. There have been various lineups over the years but, for the most part, the following musicians have been part of the Roxy Music family: Brian Eno (keyboards), Graham Simpson (on bass), Phil Manzanera (on lead guitar), Andy MacKay (on saxaphone) and Paul Thompson (drums). Ferry is the lead singer and principal songwriter and, as such, sometimes, what he writes ends up as material for Roxy Music and at other times, it becomes material for his own solo albums. The end result is that there have been a collection of hits with Ferry at the helm, including, “Avalon”, “Love is the Drug”, “Slave to Love”, “Do the Strand”, “Pyjamarama” and today’s song, “More Than This”.

Like many bands, Roxy Music tended to have a trademark “sound”. In their case, that sound was lush and romantic, with Ferry often donning stylish tuxedos and coming off as super suave. Originally, the band formed with the same intentions as many Punk bands did as the 1970s wore on and that was, to step away from, what they perceived, as the “heaviness” and “pretentiousness” of UK music at the time. But, instead of approaching their music from an anarchistic point of view (like The Sex Pistols), Roxy Music affected change by through Art. Image was always an important factor in everything that Roxy Music did so, it was not entirely surprising that Bryan Ferry would end up modelling himself after James Bond more that stripping it all down and ripping things up, as most lunks were doing then.

Neither Roxy Music nor Bryan Ferry (as a solo artist) were big stars in the US. But, they were big stars in Canada, the UK and the rest of Europe and the world. They have sold many millions of albums worldwide, over the course of their career and, in 2019, were inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. The song “More Than This” has been described as one of the most romantic songs of all-time and, as such, it is one of the most-requested “First Dance” songs at weddings since its release over forty years ago. Picture the scene: you are holding your love in your arms, dancing cheek to cheek, while a tuxedo-clad handsome man croons:

“More than this? You know there’s nothing.

More than this? Tell me one thing.

More than this.”

…and you melt into each other’s arms and hearts and your moment is perfect, thanks to Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music. I m not sure if any of you had “More Than This” as your “first dance” but, if you did, let me know in the comments section below. For the record, Keri and I had “Home for a Rest” by “Spirit of the West” as our first dance song…..which is a whole other story for another day. For now, here is “More Than This” by Roxy Music. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “More Than This” by Roxy Music, can be found here. This clip was taken from the movie, “Lost in Translation”.

The link to the official website for Roxy Music can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their official website can be found here.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #333: I’ve Seen It All by Bjork (Featuring Thom Yorke).

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #333: I’ve Seen It All by Bjork (featuring, Thom Yorke).

Back at Song #480, I introduced you to a singer named Elliott Smith and noted that he held a distinction attained by very few others in this list and that was, that his song, “Miss Misery” had been nominated for an Academy Award as “Best Song” in a Motion Picture (Good Will Hunting). Well, today, we meet the second musician to be so honoured. The song, “I’ve Seen It All” by Icelandic singer, Bjork (featuring, Thom Yorke) was from a Dutch movie called, “Dancer in the Dark”, directed by Dutch director, Lars Von Trier. The premise of the movie is that the main character, played by Bjork, is slowly going blind. Before she loses all sight, she is desperately trying to save enough money so that her young son (who has the same degenerative eye disease that she does) can have surgery that will save his sight. The song, “I’ve Seen It All” revolves around a discussion she is having with a friend/lover in which she tries to downplay the impact of blindness while he is encouraging her to live for the moment and see all she can see while she still can. It is a heart-wrenching bit of human drama being told in the form of a song. It was rightly given the honour of being nominated for an Academy Award as “Best Song in a Motion Picture”.

And…that’s where all the trouble started.

One of the things that we tend to do in our part of the world that causes trouble is believing that how things are for us is how they are for everyone; that our History is everyone’s shared experience and that, what is important to us is, therefore, important to everyone everywhere. It isn’t always that way. Take, for example, the Academy Awards. The Academy Awards is the end-of-the-year award show for, mainly, North American movies. Many of us try and see those movies that are nominated for awards in our theatres (Pre-Covid, of course). We discuss the merits of the various actors and actresses up for awards. For a week or two, talk about The Academy Awards fills our social discourse. The event generates its own level of self-importance and we, as an audience, tend to buy into it. One aspect that tends to generate the most buzz is the Red Carpet. What will the Stars be wearing? Who will the Stars be wearing? Enquiring minds seem desperate to know. In reality, the Red Carpet parade is kinda stupid, in my opinion. When did we, as a society, demand to see actresses bare their backs or show their cleavage…..and then, rate it all, accordingly…..as the price they must pay for having acted in a serious movie? We should be better than that and, although we are slowly advancing forward as a society in this area, back when “I Have Seen It All” was nominated, judging the fashion choices of those on the red carpet was akin to a blood sport.

Did you know that when swans mate, they do so for life? Of course, you are probably aware of the story of the ugly duckling that turned into a beautiful swan. Bjork knew all of this when she opted to wear a dress in the design of a swan to the Academy Awards. Being from Iceland, the US movie awards do not generate that much discussion because the cultural influence of the US entertainment industry is not that great there. Popular US movies play there, on occasion but, as Bjork has told the story, she was more familiar with Busby Berkley musicals and Esther Williams swimming spectaculars than most of what was being honoured that night in Los Angeles. So, she wore a dress that looked like a swan to be glamourous and playful…..and, people lost their collective minds!!!

“I Have Seen It All” is a beautiful song and captures a special moment in the lives of two important movie characters…..and, very few, if any, cared in the least! I have always been a fan of Bjork and this song is no exception. I like it a lot. The fact that most people know faaaaaaaar more about her “swan dress” than they know about her movie or this song, says a lot about our value systems in this part of the world. If you have never heard “I Have Seen It All” before then, get ready for a slow, measured dance between two characters; each with differing versions of how best to make use of the light before it all goes dark. Songs can be powerful and moving, at times. “I Have Seen It All” certainly is both. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “I’ve Seen It All” by Bjork (featuring Thom Yorke) can be found here.

The link to the official website for Bjork can be found here.

The link to the trailer for the movie, “Dancer in the Dark”…from which the song, “I’ve Seen It All” was used in, can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #353: Misirlou by Dick Dale.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #353: Misirlou by Dick Dale.

I am curious to know how many of you, if any, have ever heard this song title or performer? I certainly had not. However, as soon as I clicked on the link and heard the opening notes, I realized that “Misirlou” by Dick Dale is far from being an unknown song. In fact, I am willing to bet that it is a song that you will all recognize immediately, too, if you give it a shot.

First off, “Misirlou” is an instrumental guitar classic that has, as its origin, Middle Eastern roots. Dick Dale was a multi-instrumentalist in the 1950s and 60s but, gained fame for playing the guitar. Early in his playing days, he came into contact with a man named, Leo Fender, who was a guitar maker. Over time, Fender went on to become one of the most famous names in the world of guitars, with the Fender Stratocaster becoming one of the most famous guitars ever made. But, in the early days, Fender would make guitars and Dick Dale would test them out. Dale played hard and loud and used to hold his guitars upside down and backwards. Dale used thick strings to produce, what he called, “thick sounds” and he invented a style of picking that saw him go up and down in quick succession thus, simulating the sound of drumming, while making guitar notes at the same time. Working with his friend, Leo Fender, Dick Dale was, also, one of the first guitar players to use high decibel amplifiers and speakers while performing. He is credited with being one of the original role models for Heavy Metal guitarists that followed.

But, most of all, Dick Dale is noted for his “surf-oriented” guitar songs and has been dubbed, “King of the Surf Guitars”.The song “Misirlou” was a hit for him in the 1960s. It gained renewed fame in recent times, when director Quentin Tarantino used this song over the opening credits in the hit movie, “Pulp Fiction”. Dick Dale passed away in 2019 but, he was playing and giving classes and seminars in his own unique brand of guitar playing right up until the end of his life. I am confident that you will have your day perked up when you click on the link for this song. “Misirlou” by Dick Dale, is one of the classic songs in the history of Rock n’ Roll. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Misirlou” by Dick Dale, can be found here.

The link to the video for “Misirlou” by Dick Dale (as seen in the movie, “Pulp Fiction”), can be found here.

The link to the official website for Dick Dale can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for supporting good music, whether it has lyrics or not. A link to their wonderful website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #356: Stayin’ Alive by The Bee Gees, from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever..

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #356: Stayin’ Alive by The Bee Gees from the Original Motion PIcture Soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever.

I was thirteen years old when Saturday Night Fever was released. At the time, its’ cultural impact cannot be understated. Disco beats. Lighted Dance floors. Shiny, shimmery clothes. The Disco era had it all and, at the epi-centre of that era was a movie starring John Travolta called, “Saturday Night Fever”. This movie went on to become one of the largest grossing movies in history (even to this day) and the soundtrack that accompanied the movie remains the second-biggest selling movie soundtrack of all-time, too. *(It only trails Whitney Houston’s, “The Bodyguard” soundtrack, with the song, “I Will Always Love You”.) In order to do this post justice, I am going to talk about the song, the soundtrack, the movie, the BeeGees and Disco, in that order. So, put on your boogie shoes and let’s dance!”

Stayin’ Alive” was written and performed by The BeeGees. The original title of the song was going to be “Saturday Night”. However, “The Bay City Rollers” had just released a song called “Saturday Night” that became a hit and so, in order to avoid confusion, the BeeGees changed their song title to “Stayin’ Alive”. The BeeGees wrote this song without ever having seen any clips from the film. All they were given to go on was the bare outline of a story about a working class young man who found his sense of self-importance on the disco dance floor. From that, they wrote this song, as well as, “How Deep Is Your Love”, “Jive Talkin'”, “Night Fever” and “More Than a Woman”. “Stayin’ Alive” reached #1 on the charts and was a million dollar selling single for the band. “Stayin’ Alive” has been inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in the Song Category.

The movie soundtrack spawned consecutive #1 hits all throughout the year that it was released in 1977. Consequently, it was named “Album of the Year” that year. The soundtrack won a variety of awards such as the Grammy Award, as well as, the Billboard Award for Best Album. The album has been placed in the US Library of Congress for the cultural impact it has had on America since its release. While the BeeGees are most closely associated with this soundtrack, a number of other artists scored big hits, too. These included, “Yvonne Elliman” (If I Can’t Have You), “The Tramps” (Disco Inferno), “Walter Murphy” (A Fifth of Beethoven) and “KC and the Sunshine Band” (Boogie Shoes).

Even though “Saturday Night Fever” is so closely linked with Disco dancing, the overall theme of the movie was the stifling nature of being stuck in a working class lifestyle in NYC. The movie was meant to be gritty and show the many pitfalls that await those who cross the line. There are several scenes involving rape and death so, all is not as glossy and sparkly as the dance scenes would lead you to believe. The song “Stayin’ Alive” was meant to indicate how hard it was to live a happy life under the circumstances that many working class people in NYC find themselves. John Travolta (who was already a TV star based on his role as Vinnie Barbarino on “Welcome Back Kotter”) was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor making him, at the time, the youngest male to be so honoured.

The BeeGees were already a well-known and very successful musical trio, by the time “Saturday Night Fever” rolled around. They had many hits such as, “How Do You Mend a Broken Heart”, “To Love Somebody” and “I Started A Joke”. Needless to say, their involvement in the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack propelled them into another level of fame, altogether. The BeeGees consisted of three brothers: Maurice, Robin and Barry Gibb. They have enjoyed worldwide record sales in excess of 120 million albums. They were inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Maurice and Robin Gibb have recently passed away due to health reasons, leaving Barry Gibb as the only remaining member of the original group.

As for Disco, itself……for a brief while during the mid-1970s, Disco music ruled the airwaves and dictated a lot of the fashion trends that are associated with this time in history. I know that for my very first school dance in Grade 7, I wanted to wear a brown silk shirt and beige vest and pants sooooooo badly, all because of the influence of John Travolta and “Saturday Night Fever”. Looking back, I am glad that I didn’t go down that fashion road but, believe me, at the time, I would have jumped into those cool, lightweight, silk and polyester clothes in a heartbeat. Disco, as a musical genre, fell into decline as the 1980s progressed and ended up transitioning into associated genres such as Electronic Dance Music, House Music and Raves. But, for one brief, glittery, disco-ball shiny moment in time, Disco was at the centre of a lot of people’s worlds and, at the centre of the Disco movement was a movie named “Saturday night Fever” and a song called, “Stayin’ Alive” by The BeeGees. Enjoy!

The link to the video for the song, “Stayin’ Alive” by The BeeGees, can be found here.

The link to the opening scene of the movie, “Saturday Night Fever”, which features the song “Stayin’ Alive”, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The BeeGees, can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their official website can be found here.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #393: Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KTOM: THe Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #393: Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield.

Mike Oldfield created “Tubular Bells” when he was still a teenager. “Tubular Bells” is best known as the opening instrumental theme for the movie, “The Exorcist”. It has won many awards and has ended up selling millions of copies and is, generally, regarded as being one of the most creative, influential and sophisticated records of all time. But, the story of “Tubular Bells” extends beyond the mere creation of a piece of music. It is a story that includes autistic, prodigy-like skills, billionaires and inter-galactic space travel and Hollywood and it all started with a young, autistic boy named Mike Oldfield.

The Autism Spectrum is a vast and varied place. There is no one set of rules or characteristics that define who an autistic person is and/or who they can become. A lot depends of where a person sits on the Spectrum. In the case of Mike Oldfield, he grew up not knowing he was autistic. In the 1960s, to be labelled as autistic was akin to being labelled as being mentally defective. Parents never sought out a diagnosis of autism for their child because of the stigma attached by society. So, instead of defining a child’s place on the Autism Spectrum and then, designing programmes and experiences best suited for their development based upon data specifically tailored for that child, many autistic children in the 1960s were left to languish; often isolated, misunderstood and unable to understand how to fit into a world that didn’t seem to have a place for them.

In the case of Mike Oldfield, his childhood challenges were exacerbated by domestic discord in his family home between his parents. This caused Oldfield to retreat into the safety of his bedroom and, in particular, into the world of sounds. As a young teen, Oldfield began demonstrating a proclivity for being able to master the playing of musical instruments. He approached each instrument from an analytical point of view; analyzing how the functionality of each instrument produced various notes and the degree of ease/difficulty present to produce these notes in certain sequences or combinations. Even though he was painfully shy, Oldfield’s desire to play his instruments resulted in him becoming involved in a variety of local bands. It was as a result of being involved in one of his bands that he was given a tape recorder. Oldfield immediately took the tape recorder apart; replacing the “erase” feature and creating an additional “record” function thus, he created a multi-track recording device which, in turn, expanded the range of musical sounds he was able to create.

As his late teens arrived, Oldfield began creating the initial foundation for, what was to become, “Tubular Bells”. But, he realized that his ambition extended beyond the capabilities of his small Tape-recorder studio. His search for larger recording facilities brought him to the attention of a young entrepreneur named Richard Branson….yes, that Richard Branson. Whether or not Branson understood Autism, he certainly recognized the prodigy-like talent of Mike Oldfield and so, he gave Oldfield access to the recording studio at his estate. With that studio came a myriad of instruments (all of which Oldfield learned on his own) and, most notably, there came a complete set of tubular bells. Over time, Oldfield played each instrument, recorded and mixed each track and ended up creating an entire album called, “Tubular Bells”. The song that you will hear today (which is The Exorcist theme song) is merely the opening first 5-6 minutes of an entire full-length instrumental magnus opus. Since then, Oldfield has produced several variations of this album, called “Tubular Bells II”, “Tubular Bells-III” and so on. The original “Tubular Bells” album was the very first album ever released on Branson’s Virgin Music Label. The proceeds from the millions of album sales helped fund many other Virgin-related innovative projects, including, all these years later, Branson’s wish to achieve intergalactic space flight. Oldfield ended up getting married and having children of his own. He has toured the world and has performed for audiences that included everyone from Royalty, to his fellow musicians, to regular folks, like you and me.

Oldfield remains socially withdrawn but, has found a greater sense of peace in his later years than he ever knew as a child. It just goes to prove how times are changing with regard to how those who are autistic are perceived. For many, being autistic is simply who they are. For some, their particular form of autism brings with it intellectual gifts that allow for great discoveries and creations. For Mike Oldfield, it helped him create one of the most memorable pieces of instrumental music ever created in modern times. For that, we should all be grateful.

The link to the video for “Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield, can be found here.

Mike Oldfield has a website that can be accessed by clicking the link here.

A link for the trailer to the movie, “The Exorcist”, featuring “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield, can be found here.

I Am Hat. You Are Shoe

This past Monday, a blogger friend of mine from Belfast decided to offer his thoughts on this year’s Academy Awards. He began with a simple statement: he had not seen this year’s winner for Best Picture, Parasite. He went on to say that none of his friends had seen it, either. So, he was asking for input from his acquaintances in the blogging world. Had any of us watched this movie or was this another case of Hollywood opting to honour an artsy movie that no one, outside of their own circle, really cared about? He concluded his remarks by stating that he had just seen 1917 and thought it was pretty good.

Like my friend, I had not seen Parasite nor, had anyone that I was aware of. I had seen 1917 so I wanted to comment on the post but, before I did, I felt compelled to research Parasite a little first so that I could speak with a modicum of knowledge in my comment. So, I went to Twitter and typed in #Parasite. Scores of tweets poured forth. The bulk of the initial comments were reactions to some of the racially-insensitive comments being made by those offended by the fact that a foreign film had won Best Picture and that the director, Bong Joon Ho, made his acceptance speech in a combination of broken english and his own, native Korean. Normally, I follow the rule of thumb that advises us all to not go down the rabbit hole when it comes to most on-line comment threads. But, because I was thirsting for facts about this movie, I ignored my own advice and plunged in. For once, I was glad that I did.

About one third of the way into the comment thread, someone decided to take the conversation in a different direction. They tweeted their hope that now that Bong Joon Ho had been brought into the public eye in North America that, perhaps, some of his earlier films would gain renewed interest and recognition. In particular, this person recommended Bong Joon Ho’s very first big budget movie, Snowpiercer. As soon as Snowpiercer was mentioned, the thread took off in a whole different, excitable direction, with dozens of fans chiming in to say what an amazing movie Snowpiercer was. But what really caught my attention…..and what went on to inspire this post…..was a tweet by someone who claimed that Snowpiercer was actually a dystopian sequel to the beloved childhood classic, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory! What!? A violent, futuristic tale of class warfare is the sequel to the tale of the world’s finest chocolate maker? This I had to see for myself!

First of all, let’s review the basic premise of the Roald Dahl classic first. In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a mysterious genius has created a perfect world in the artificial setting of a chocolate factory. There is no end to the innovation and imagination on display by Mr. Wonka. Into this world of wonder comes a group of children and adults. Within this group, their are different personality types, reflective of various segments of society at the time. As this group attempts to co-exist with Wonka’s factory, the true characteristics of each child come to the fore and, as they explore one magical room after another, they find themselves facing a reckoning that slowly but, surely, whittles the group down to one. That one child, Charlie Bucket, is declared the “winner” by Mr. Wonka who reveals that, in fact, he is tired of running the factory and is seeking someone to take over the reins and that, in fact, that person is Charlie Bucket. I have read the Roald Dahl book to many students over the years and we have watched the original movie, staring Gene Wilder as Wonka, many times as well. It is a classic tale told very well and is deserving of every accolade it has received over the years.

Snowpiercer is set in the not-too-distant future. In an effort to alleviate the effects of Climate Change, scientists have released a refrigerant into the atmosphere to cool rising global temperatures. However, the effect of this is that Earth freezes and all life goes extinct, except for those lucky enough to find refuge on this train that endlessly circles the Earth. The train is a modern-day version of Noah’s Ark and has been created with enough resources to maintain a complete, bio-diverse eco-system designed to allow those on-board the chance to survive while awaiting the possible return to the outside world should temperature warm enough to allow for regeneration. Like Wonka’s chocolate factory, this train was created by a mythical genius known as Willard, played by Ed Harris. Those who subscribe to the theory that Snowpiercer is, in fact, the sequel to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory say that Willard is really Charlie Bucket. If you can allow yourself to believe this single fact then, the structure of the remainder of the movie falls neatly into place, despite the fact that Snowpiercer is told more as mash-up between Blade Runner and The Hunger Games.

In Snowpiercer, the Ark-like train is divided up into a series of connected cars; each car containing something different and important when it comes to maintaining the integrity of the eco-system on board. The premise that drives the action forward is that the train has been divided along class lines, too, with the rich at the head of the train and the very poor at the tail of the train. The poor live in squalor and are oppressed at every turn. Eventually, they revolt. The leader of the insurgency is Chris Evans, who played Captain America in the Marvel movies. Like Willy Wonka, the rebels (who are a rag-tag collection of characters) move through the cars on the train, one at a time, like the children moved through Wonka’s magical rooms. At each car, there is action, often violent action, that causes the group to reduce in numbers over time. Eventually, without giving away too many secrets, there is a “winner” in this movie who is asked to take over the running of things on this magical train. As in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the ending of Snowpiercer hints at the possibility of an entirely different way of living; a world devoid of class stratification, wanton violence and discrimination and poverty, too.

One of the sub-texts to the story of Snowpiercer is why this movie is only becoming known now, eight years after it was released. The story of that is one of abusive power. Snowpiercer was Bong Joon Ho’s first big budget movie. In order to arrange financing, Joon Ho entered into a partnership with producer Harvey Weinstein. As the recent history of the #MeToo movement has documented, Weinstein was not the nicest human on the planet, putting it mildly. He wielded the power of his position like a ruthless dictator. For many actresses, it meant sexual abuse. For Bong Joon Ho, it meant a battle for control of his artistic vision for the movie against a man, Weinstein, who was known for expecting the final say on all edits. Because Bong Joon Ho fought back throughout the making of the movie, Weinstein used his clout to severely limit the release of Snowpiercer, to the point where it almost disappeared completely from view.

One of the big “lessons” from this movie is resistance to oppression. In the photo above, Tilda Swinton is a representative from Willard who has been sent to the back of the train to quiet some murmurs of dissent. At the end of her not-well-received speech, one of the poor folk throws his shoe at her and manages a glancing blow. The scene pivots at that point. The man is taken into immediate custody and Swinton, holding his shoe, launches into a speech about how she is a hat and he is a shoe and how hats belong where hats go…on a head….and shoes belong where shoes go….on feet. To mix the roles of hats and shoes is absurd and upsets the carefully-crafted balance of society. In other words, know your place and stay in it! The punishment the man receives is to have the arm he used to throw the shoe placed through a hole in the side of the train so that it is exposed to the freezing outside air. Those in charge do careful calculations as to how long it will take for his arm to freeze solid based upon current weather conditions, the speed of the train, etc. and Swinton speaks for that length of time, accordingly. At the end of her speech, the man’s arm is pulled back in, revealed to be frozen solid like a statue and then, it is chopped off in front of the rest of the poor passengers as a warning to remain obedient. Throughout the rest of the movie, the presence or absence of limbs becomes an underlying layer of added meaning and significance.

Despite the graphic violence (which is on a par with what was shown during the Hunger Games), I thought this movie was amazing! It is very much like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in how imaginative it is, at times, and how mesmerizing some of the scenes are. Social commentary flows through both movies; sometimes, it is blatant and said aloud, sometimes, it is woven into the consequences of the action in a particular scene and remains unspoken. But, through it all, both movies speak to the value and goodness inherent in ordinary humans. Resistance to oppression is healthy and valuable and difficult and dangerous. But, most of all, it is important when forces within a society get too far out of whack. It happened to President Snow in The Hunger Games. It happened to Adolf Hitler in real life. It happened to the likes of Veruca Salt in the Wonka movie. It happened to the inhabitants of Earth prior to the Great Flood in The Bible. It happens in Snowpiercer, too.

Resistance is not futile.

Snowpiercer is playing right now, for free, on Netflix in Canada. I would highly recommend this movie. It is terrific and leaves you with much to think about. But, if I could offer any advice at all prior to watching it would be this; don’t go into this movie expecting The Hunger Games or a Marvel action-type movie. There are enough plot holes in Snowpiercer to drive a truck through. But, if you allow yourself to view this movie through the absurdist lens of Mr. Wonka then, Snowpiercer will blow your mind. The trailer for the movie can be viewed here.

Sometimes it actually pays to read the on-line comments. Without the guidance of others, I would never have even known that such a movie as Snowpiercer existed. Bong Joon Ho is a talented director and is deserving of the praise he is earning for Parasite. Perhaps it is time to give that movie a chance, too. I am betting I won’t be disappointed.